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Zero tolerance for head injuries in Finnish baseball – focus on use and condition of headgear

20.10.2015 8.16
Press release

The Finnish Baseball Association (Suomen Pesäpalloliitto ry), manufacturers of protective headgear, the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) remind players of the importance of using headgear during games and practices. Players should also remember that a helmet provides no protection unless in good condition and properly fastened.

The Finnish Baseball Association, manufacturers of protective headgear, the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) have joined forces to discuss safety issues in the Finnish game of pesäpallo (Finnish baseball). The issue was highlighted when Finnish baseball helmets on the market failed to comply with statutory requirements for personal protection with respect to EC type examination and CE markings. However, in later tests conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH), protective headgear was proven to have sufficient shock resistance when used in Finnish baseball games.

As well as their protective properties, the discussion touched upon the use of helmets. The Finnish Baseball Association has reminded players in all tiers of the Finnish league system of the importance of head protection, has instructed referees to be quick to intervene when safety is neglected and has sharpened up the interpretation of the rules on the issue.

“Helmets became mandatory in Finnish baseball in 1989. Since then, the rules of the game have demanded immediate intervention and penalties if headgear is neglected. We now want to remind people of the proper use of helmets and the importance of replacing them when necessary,” points out Mika Helminen, Competition Manager at the Finnish Baseball Association.

“If a helmet is not in good condition or properly fastened, it will not help the wearer in the event of an accident. Head injuries are always serious and preventative action should be taken to avoid them. I want the use of headgear to become automatic in all situations, including practices,” adds Helminen.

In Finnish baseball, the striker, runners and outfield players – apart from the pitcher and catcher – must use headgear.

“Players positioned infield and those running between first and second base, where the ball is being struck at an angle from behind the runner, are at particular risk of head injuries. Balls reach speeds of 180–190 km/h when struck by top players. The risks include eye injuries, fractures of the facial bones, dental injuries and brain contusions. Again this summer, there have been news reports of incidents where Finnish baseball players have recovered from being struck on the head by a ball because they were wearing helmets,” Helminen explains.

Tukes reminds Finnish baseball players of the importance of abiding by the instructions for using protective gear. Finnish baseball helmets can be used until, in line with the manufacturer's instructions, they need to replaced with new ones.

“A helmet should be replaced if it has been subject to a powerful blow.  The helmet's shock resistance may have decreased, even if no damage is visible. In addition, protective gear such as Finnish baseball helmets may lose their protective capacity through age, no longer providing sufficient protection. This means that helmets should be replaced in line with the manufacturer's instructions,” comments Katri Sihvola, Product Safety Engineer at Tukes.

Responsibility for ensuring that only compliant products are on the market lies with economic operators, i.e. the manufacturers, importers and retailers.

“The current helmet models fulfil the requirements set for personal protection, but this depends on how long the helmet has been in use. An updated list of the current helmet models can be found on the website of the Finnish Baseball Association In addition, the Association's competition management team has decided that, from the 2018 season, only CE-marked helmets will be permitted in games,” states Helminen.

Helmets used in sport, such as Finnish baseball helmets, are Category II personal protective equipment. They must fulfil the requirements for personal protective equipment and undergo an EC type examination by a notified body before their placing on the market. The notified body issues an EC type examination certificate to personal protective equipment that meets the relevant requirements.  Before placing protective equipment on the market, the manufacturer must draw up an EC Declaration of Conformity and add affix a CE marking to the product.

When purchasing new helmets, consumers should ensure that the product bears a CE marking and that Finnish and Swedish-language instructions are included. The instructions should mention the name, address and identification number of the notified body that type examined the product.

Further information:

Mika Helminen

Competition Manager

Finnish Baseball Association

+358 40 739 1280

[email protected]

Katri Sihvola

Product Safety Engineer

Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency

+358 29 5052 197

[email protected]